After camping at Boat of Balliefurth, the next day we canoed to the bridge at Grantown-on-Spey. Dave wanted to get a good look at the next bit of river, which was very choppy with no eddies.
If anyone had fallen in, they would have been carried downstream a long way, so he phoned for a minibus and we loaded the canoes and kit on a trailer and drove to Cromdale, where we had lunch.
We spent the afternoon canoeing from Cromdale to the campsite at Cragganmore, which is beside the old Ballindalloch Railway Station.
It took quite a bit of effort to carry all of the kit, but not the canoes, over a field and up to the campsite.
Wikipedia has an entry about the Strathspey Railway, which used to run through Ballindalloch and was used by passengers as well as whisky trains. In the above photo, the gate is across the old railway line.
I was not particularly looking forward to the next day, which included a section of the river known as the Blacksboat Rapid, or “The Washing Machine.” This is Grade II in normal levels, and harder in high water. “One of the most famous rapids on the Spey, consisting of a Grade II ramp between shingle banks with a long bouncy wave train. Open canoes regularly swamped here.” Here’s a YouTube video of some people going down it, and falling in, when the water was low.
What a relief when Dave decided that the river was too high and that it was best to miss it out!
We ended up portaging the kit up to the road, and the minibus came and took us to the campsite at Craigellachie.
Even though it rained quite a bit during the night, the level of the Spey was down the next day, allowing a final push to the sea. No two descents are the same. In the morning, instead of carrying everything some distance along a track and then down to the Spey, Dave decide that it was possible to do a first, a put in on the River Fiddich.
Canoeists are up for anything! Dave got some ropes out and we lowered his canoe down a steep bank and over a fence to the Fiddich.
He then put in first, whilst we watched from the bridge. It was a tricky put in, as there were some rocks in the middle of the stream (not shown above), and the put in spot wasn’t easy either. It shows just how much of townies we are that we were all simply watching Nick struggle with his boat and thinking about how we would try to do it all ourselves when it came to our turn, and how we’d have to make a sharp pry to miss the rock, and so on, when a shout went up from Dave, who was watching downstream: “Help him!”
From Craigellachie it was quite a long, but very interesting day’s paddling until we eventually reached Spey Bay, and the sea!
I can’t remember the last time I felt so relieved. It was a great trip, though.
I can hardly imagine how good it would be if it didn’t rain for five days.